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Practical tips for Estate Administration – part two

09.09.20

As we explained in the introductory piece in this new blog series on estate administration, when someone dies it can seem there are an overwhelming number of jobs which need to be done. In part two of the series below, we aim to provide a useful step by step guide of what needs to done and when.

Reporting the death

The first step when someone dies is to formally report the death and obtain a Medical Cause of Death Certificate (MCDC). You will need the MCDC to enable you to register the death later.

When someone dies at home following an illness, or in a nursing home, the death is usually expected and you should call their GP or closest doctor’s surgery who should be able to issue the MCDC immediately. If someone dies in a nursing home the care staff will be able to do this for you. If someone dies in hospital you will be given MCDC by the medical team or the Medical Examiner will pass this directly to the local Register Office.

Where someone dies unexpectedly outside of hospital you should immediately call 999 and request the police and ambulance services. In these circumstances the Coroner will also be notified and there may be an inquest by the Coroner into the cause of death. This can delay registering the death and the funeral but you can request an interim death certificate.

Registering the death

Once you have the MCDC you need to register the death at the local Register Office to where the person died within 5 days. If this is not possible you can go to a Register Office of your choice and the information will be passed to the local Register Office however, this may cause delay. You need to make an appointment before you attend. Many Registries are currently operating under altered procedures due to the Covid-19 restrictions. You can search for the appropriate Register Office and their contact details here: https://www.gov.uk/register-offices

It is usually the responsibility of the relatives to register the death. The Registrar will typically only allow non-relatives to do so if next of kin are not available. The Registrar will make an entry in the Register of Deaths and give you:

  1. Death certificate – we recommend you buy several copies as they will need to be sent out to each organisation relevant in the Who to Notify section, below;
  2. Certificate for burial or cremation (‘green form’) which will be needed by the funeral director; and
  3. Certificate of registration of death (‘white form’) and information on using the ‘Tell Us Once service’.

Funeral arrangements

One decision which will usually need to be made early in the process is choosing a funeral director as they will transfer the body to the funeral home until the funeral arrangements are in place. It is possible to keep the body at home if you wish, but this should be discussed with the funeral director.

Whilst it may seem too soon it is important to look through the deceased’s papers once you are able, to find out if they had a funeral plan – in which case you should contact the administrator of the plan to organise the funeral arrangements. You should also have a look for the deceased’s Will or accompanying Letter of Wishes as they may also include funeral wishes.

If the deceased did not have a funeral plan it is possible to have the funeral costs paid directly from their bank account. The funeral director can assist with this as the bank will need to make checks with the funeral director and will make payment directly to them where there are sufficient funds in the deceased’s account.

Administering the estate

It is important to locate any Will to ensure the correct people are dealing with the estate. If there is a Will, those named as Executors should be the people who contact the relevant agencies and banks etc. If someone dies intestate (with no Will) the person entitled to deal with the estate is determined by the intestacy rules as explained in our first article in the Estate Administration series.

You should seek specialist advice if you are unsure who should be dealing with the estate. For example, where it is believed a Will was made but it cannot be located, or where the named Executor or person entitled to administer the estate under the intestacy rules is unable or unwilling to act.

The role of Personal Representative is one of responsibility. They are required to identify and collect all assets, pay all liabilities including calculating and paying all Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax due and properly distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will or intestacy rules. Failure to do so could result in personal liability to unknown creditors or claims for wrongful distribution. There are ways for the Personal Representatives to protect themselves such as by placing creditor notices and seeking advice where appropriate.

Practical things to do when someone dies

Who to notify;

  • Family/Friends/Employer
  • DWP/Pension Service, HMRC, DVLA, Passport Agency via Tell Us Once
  • Local Authority: Council Tax, return of blue badge
  • Utility Providers: Gas, Electric, Water, Phone, Broadband
  • Office of the Public Guardian to cancel Lasting or Enduring Powers of Attorney
  • Landlord, freeholder, mortgage company
  • Banks/Building Societies/Pension, investment, life insurance policy providers
  • Cancel regular deliveries and subscriptions
  • Redirect post/regularly collect it to ensure you are aware of all the assets and liabilities
  • Rehoming pets

Preserve estate assets;

  • Insurance where necessary. Most home and contents policies include restrictions where the property is unoccupied so specialist insurance may be required
  • Ensure the property is secure and all doors and window locked
  • Take cold weather precautions such as setting a thermostat on the heating to prevent frozen and burst pipes, draining down the water tank
  • Make sure vehicles are secure and off the road when road tax expires
  • If the deceased owned a business, we recommend you take specialist advice on your obligations

Additional support

You may be entitled to benefits to support yourself financially during this difficult time, such as Bereavement Support Payment, Funeral Payment, Guardians Allowance. More information is available at: https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement

Losing a loved one can be an extremely distressing time and it is important to look after yourself and other family members who may be struggling following a bereavement. There are a number of bereavement charities who offer additional support and specialist counselling or advice in your local area.

We hope this guide has been helpful in identifying the practical steps which need to be done when someone dies.  If you would like any further information or assistance administering someone’s estate, then please do get in touch. 

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